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article imageOp-Ed: Are Toronto Maple Leafs and RFA Jonathan Bernier still a fit?

By Marcus Hondro     May 15, 2015 in Sports
The Toronto Maple Leafs have many player decisions this summer, not to mention for GM and coach, so goalie Jonathan Bernier's status may not be first on their to-do list. But he'll be a restricted free agent July 1 so a decision will have to happen soon.
2014-15 for Jonathan Bernier
Bernier, 26, did not put up great numbers, but how easy was that to do on a team that, once their downward spiral began, looked as defensively sound as a Pee Wee house club? Sure he did not steal many games but both he and his back-up, James Reimer, showed at times they were ready to steal one but, when all was said and done, their teammates lacked the spirit to take advantage.
In 58 games, Bernier went 21-28-7, with a 2.87 GAA and a decent .912 save percentage; of goalies that played 50 or more games there were only 20 ahead of him in save percentage and all from teams ahead of Toronto in the standings.
That, of course, may be expected given Toronto only finished ahead of Edmonton, Phoenix and Buffalo, but with that kind of workload on the Maples Leafs, his numbers could be worse.
So once Toronto has their GM in place and has a plan to deal with players such as Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul, who seem to have run out of gas as Leafs, and another RFA Nazem Kadri, they'll make an offer to Bernier. Long-term? If that's what they offer they won't be offering it at top money.
Further, with the goalie market being what it always is in the summer, full of possible choices (teams could look to acquire the likes of Eddie Lack, Cam Talbot, and others) there is little chance Bernier's numbers would have any club wanting to deal for him. Ditto signing him as a RFA.
Maple Leafs: short-term offer
Analyst Elliotte Friedman told the Fan 590 in Toronto this morning that if he were in Bernier's skates he would "take a chance and go short term." That does seem how things will go but it's likely he won't have a choice. Whether Bernier wants to or not, whoever winds up as GM of the Maple Leafs is going to want assurances that what appears to be a sub-par season doesn't mean he's on a downward trajectory.
Of course, Bernier may secretly want out. Not known as a malcontent, he must nonetheless feel his teammates left him out to dry. Not just with poor results, but poor efforts. You don't go 9-30-5 with only one road win from January on by playing with heart and effort. The defensive miscues that came from players mailing it in had to become harder to take as the losing wore on.
But circumstances suggest Bernier and the Leafs are stuck with one another, at least for the foreseeable future. If the gets only a short deal, one say for two years at, or slightly above, the $2.9 million he's been paid since coming over from the L.A. Kings, then he needs a great year to play himself into a longer deal next time around, when 28, and one for better numbers.
Or to play himself into the plans of another NHL team.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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